Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Poem that inspired the title "Gone With the Wind"


A Roman poem written before the birth of Christ, inspired the title of a 19th century English poem that contained a line that was the inspiration for the title of an American classic novel of the 20th century.

The poem that inspired the title to Margaret Mitchell's 1936 classic Civil War romance novel Gone With the Wind comes from a line in a poem written by the tragic poet Ernest Dowson.

Mitchell's title comes from the first line of the third stanza of Dowson's 1894 poem, Non Sum Qualis Eram Bonae Sub Regno Cynarae. When translated from Latin into English the poem's title reads, "I am not as I was under the reign of the kind Cynara." Dowson's title itself is borrowed from a line of the Roman lyric poet Horace's Odes, Book 4, 1.


Non Sum Qualis Eram Bonae Sub Regno Cynarae

Last night, ah, yesternight, betwixt her lips and mine
There fell thy shadow, Cynara! Thy breath was shed
Upon my soul between the kisses and the wine;
And I was desolate and sick of an old passion,
  Yea, I was desolate and bowed my head:
I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion.

All night upon mine heart I felt her warm heart beat,
Night-long within mine arms in love and sleep she lay;
Surely the kisses of her bought red mouth were sweet;
But I was desolate and sick of an old passion,
  When I awoke and found the dawn was grey:
I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion.

I have forgot much, Cynara! Gone with the wind,
Flung roses, roses riotously with the throng,
Dancing, to put thy pale, lost lilies out of mind;
But I was desolate and sick of an old passion,
  Yea, all the time, because the dance was long:
I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion.

I cried for madder music and for stronger wine,
But when the feast is finished and the lamps expire,
Then falls thy shadow, Cynara! The night is thine;
And I am desolate and sick of an old passion,
  Yea, hungry for the lips of my desire:
I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion.


— Ernest Dowson


Ernest Dowson (1867-1900) died of alcoholism at the age of 32. His downward spiral began at age 23 when he fell for an 11 year old girl who would spurn him at 14 when he proposed marriage. The following year, in 1894 his father died from an overdose. Dowson's mother hanged herself within a year of her husband's death.

Soon after this dual tragedy Dowson left for France before returning back to England in 1897. Curiously he lived with the family of his unrequited love. Penniless, heartbroken and filling the empty voids in his life with alcohol, Dowson would spend the last six weeks of his life in the cottage of the Oscar Wilde biographer Robert Sherard who had found him drunk in a bar.

Speaking of Oscar Wilde, he wrote after Dowson's death of a,"Poor wounded wonderful fellow that he was, a tragic reproduction of all tragic poetry, like a symbol, or a scene. I hope bay leaves will be laid on his tomb and rue and myrtle too for he knew what love was."

As for Margaret Mitchell — who was eerily born, this day, in the year of Dowson's death — she would succumb to injuries from a hit-and-run accident in Atlanta, Georgia at the age of 49. Gone With the Wind would be the only novel that she wrote and published in her lifetime.